Finding our calling in life

I was thinking about a first cousin who resides in Israel. He’s married, has children and lives his life.

Now well into his 50s he left the love and safety of his family here in the United States. His father, my uncle and godfather, was killed in a hit-and-run accident close to their home. The police never found the driver and the vehicle that majorly impacted our entire family.

He was a top-flight student who also excelled on the piano. His religious principles grew and he left for Israel for his calling. Israel has a mandatory military service requirement for its citizens. For two years my cousin joined, even though the law didn’t require him as a non-native born Israeli to do so.

I wonder about youngsters laboring in high schools, trade schools, colleges, universities and regular employment. While many have a vision for their future to include family and employment, untold numbers feel lost, empty. Parents may not realize the depth of despair and discouragement that their offspring experience. Expectations are real, decisions towards manifesting visions, hopes and dreams may escape the consciousness of parents.

The expectation in my family of origin was a college degree. Thereafter, we advanced beyond college with a job that echoed the course work we majored in. I’ve spoken in earlier articles of my feeling lost after college. Yes, I had a degree, a diploma to hang on the wall. Jobs in psychology were not plentiful. President Kennedy had a clear vision for America for its youth, for its middle-aged folks and, yes, for its older retired citizens. I was tired of school and traditional ways of learning. I was grateful for an education that was necessary for advancement. I looked deep within my psyche and asked for guidance. What do I do now? Where do I go from here? I’m stuck!

I applied to VISTA, an acronym that stood for Volunteers in Service to America. I was chosen, and while delighted for the recognition, I became frightened. I acknowledged a lack of confidence, an immaturity that cried out for something of substance beyond the formal classroom setting.

Fast forward. I found myself on Mount Hood, a dormant volcano in Oregon some 3,000 miles from home. I was all but entirely on my own. Along with a colleague from Los Angeles, I embarked on a year of commitment and devotion in the spirit of selfless service to others. I received shelter and food, both substandard.

A token paycheck allowed me to purchase my first vehicle after my year of service working with Job Corps youth, mostly from the southeast, some from California, with the majority African-American. It opened my consciousness to a world I, so to speak, cut my teeth on. I was there to teach, to coach, to counsel. What the hundreds of youth taught me about life beyond the measure of 22 years is a rich source of gratitude.

I’d like to propose that some of you lost souls without a clear vision consider this path. I know that the path isn’t for all. Yet, selfless service is a viable option toward an emotional and spiritual awakening that may give rise to a growing sense of self. I sometimes think that we as a nation can come together in a richness of diversification by creating programs for selfless service. The gain in skill-building, working amongst diverse groups and for the best interest of all is a high standard we can achieve.

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

Marshall Greenstein, a Cassadaga resident, holds a master’s degree in marriage and family counseling and is a licensed marriage and family counselor and a licensed mental health counselor in New York state. He has regular office hours at Hutton and Greenstein Counseling Services, 501 E. Third St., Suite 2B, Jamestown, 484-7756. For more information or to suggest topics, email